Archive for the ‘Podcasts’ Category

You may recall my review of Watch Out for Fireballs!, a retro video game podcast. Both of the hosts also run other shows. Gary Butterfield’s is called Dead Idea Valhalla. It is a variety podcast which most commonly features a monologue by Gary covering whatever topic interests him at that time, music that he has written/recorded, as well as a variety of skits performed between himself and a character he either adapted from an external source or created independently. I’ll cover each segment separately before discussing my overall impressions of the podcast.

First, the rants. They’re interesting and thought out. The topics Gary selects to talk about are varied and often pertain to whatever is happening in his life at the time, but he doesn’t just switch on the mic and speak off the top of his head (or if he does, it doesn’t show). Anything from GLBT rights, gender equality, vignettes of his life, and quirks of bus travel and universities and where he lives are fodder for his podcast. These segments are the parts where you learn the most about Gary as an individual. As I am always interested in other people (characters in fiction, likewise, are what will make or break a story for me), this is perhaps my favorite segment. I’d liked the rants so much that I’d actually e-mailed Gary with some of my responses while listening to the podcast, typing the message as I listened. He was grateful for the reply, although I’m a bit too wordy to respond to I think. 😉 I have listened to all of the episodes, and thereafter began listening to some of them with my boyfriend Kyle as well. Each time we sit down together with Dead Idea Valhalla, the rant segment is cause for a direct discussion between me and Kyle of the same subject Gary talks about. Whether you agree or disagree with Gary’s viewpoint, his presentation of the subject at hand includes a thoughtful argument for his case.

Second, the music. This is the part of the podcast that I feel is Gary’s biggest interest, as he has been in a variety of bands and has written/performed music for years (much as I’ve written stories and drawn for years). This is his biggest creative outlet, but because music is subject to each person’s individual tastes I feel like listeners may have a variety of responses to it. Simply put, Gary’s style is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Kyle for example listens to a great deal of metal; I listen to a lot of J-rock and bellydance music. This does not mean that we don’t appreciate the songs Gary composes as we both do listen to a variety of genres, but my point is that not everyone listens to a range of styles, and not everyone listens to the sort of music that Gary produces. My personal favorites were the rap songs he did long ago with a friend under the monniker HWP (Honkies With Privileges), a lot of the music from his prior band The Metroids, instrumentals (I love instrumentals! :D), and random songs from the skits such as the music of The Bindle Suite. The songs related to skits are often rather distinct from one another and therefore remain very memorable. All of his music is also quite catchy, so it’s frequent that I find myself randomly recalling a lyric or humming a tune. There are a few episodes devoted to the songs Gary has recorded, but by and large this is the smallest segment of the show, usually only evidenced as a single song placed between the rant and the skit.

Third, the skits. The characters are recurring and will pop up again every few episodes. The stories range across the spectrum, from a new imagined ending for Brokeback Mountain to radio advertisements from a fictional town where Gary places a lot of the skits. Although I haven’t asked him, I believe that Kyle’s favorite part are these skits as he quotes lines from them incessantly and refers back to them often. He loves, for example, the stories of The Saga of the Dungeon Mister and The Behaunter of the Lobby Station. He’s asked to listen to these multiple times in a row, in fact. I must admit that these are often hilarious and full of references back to prior episodes of the podcasts, the rants, and also to whatever subject matter prompted the creation of the skit in the first place (D&D in the case of Dungeon Mister and Victorian novels in the case of Behaunter). They have the feel of a modern version of the radio adventure shows back in the era before TV was invented, and are very creative. This segment is, in my opinion, the most likely to be successful as the subject matter for a future podcast, whenever Gary decides to make another one (see below).

In short, I love this podcast. I quote it, I refer back to it, I think about it more than any other podcast I’ve listened to and/or reviewed here. Sadly however, it has suffered from a lack of listenership and so Gary has struggled with what he calls “The Void,” that is, a lack of feedback. This is a monster that plagues all creative people, myself included, and so I strongly sympathize with the sentiment and the war against it. It leaves a creative individual with the horrible sensation of, “why am I doing this anyway? No one seems to care.” As a result of this feeling, which has been magnified by a series of personal issues he’s been wrestling with in the past few months, Gary has decided to finish out the show and has posted the first half of the final episode as of the date of this review. He’d stated that he will likely create something new after his life has settled back down again, and after he’s dealt with the dilemmas which challenge him presently. Kyle and I both look forward to that time, and both wish him well.

I strongly recommend downloading and tuning in to Dead Idea Valhalla, either directly from Gary’s website or from iTunes. Should you do so, please take a moment to rate it on iTunes, friend it on Facebook, or just shoot Gary a message to let him know what you think of the show.


In my recent pursuit of interesting podcasts, I turned towards something nonfiction given my recent gaming pursuits. Because of my abiding love of the country, I listened to a few different shows about Japan ranging from news to life as a traveler or foreigner living in Japan to the actual history, though of course there are more podcasts out there than one might imagine on any given subject, so the extent to which I have delved thus far is fairly limited.

However, the one I ultimately chose to download is called A Short History of Japan by Cameron Foster, who is an Australian teacher. The reviews both on iTunes and his Podbean website are all very positive; the latest review on iTunes for example is from someone with a PhD in Japanese art and history and they approve of the accuracy of the content and the presentation as it is easy to follow.

It’s laid out easily enough, detailing one small part of the history at a time. The episodes are short, usually about 20 minutes each although a couple are nearly an hour long. It’s only intermittently released every few months, so a listener will have to subscribe and check back later, but this is not necessarily a bad thing as sometimes the sheer number of episodes being cranked out for a given show can be a little overwhelming.

It delves into the myths and legends regarding the origin of Japan and intends to discuss on through the modern era I would assume. It begins with the Shinto mythology about the creation of the island and its people, which is of course very interesting stuff. Mr. Foster, as a teacher, has a knack for arresting the listener’s attention and speaking in layman’s terms so that anyone can follow along without much trouble. He also has a wry sense of humor that I amusingly enough likened to Monty Python right before Mr. Foster made his first reference to that British comedy group. He is very funny while also being informative and educational. I shared this podcast with several other people, who then also became interested in it and downloaded all the episodes.

To anyone seeking a greater understanding of Japan; to anyone wanting to learn a bit in some spare time (or while multitasking as I have as I’ve listened to the podcast at work); to anyone who would like a little enriching entertainment, I would certainly recommend this outstanding history podcast.

My friend Lourdes gave the most succinct review imaginable: “I wish he was my teacher! I can listen to this podcast for hours, over and over again!”

Guild Wars Insider

Posted: 2011.10.04 in Podcasts

This was the first podcast I listened to, and one of the two that I intend to follow. Of all of the gamer podcasts I checked out, Guild Wars Insider is the most professional and solid source of information for Guild Wars players, old and new. It covers all of the most recent release information for Guild Wars 2 almost literally as it is released via ArenaNet’s blogs and press announcements.

As for the technical information, as previously stated this is very well done. It is professional, features splendid sound quality and pacing, and most importantly the episodes are only as long as they need to be. Seven, the host of the podcast, does not draw things out any more than they need to be drawn out: he gets to the point, adds his commentary, and moves on. When there is nothing to say, he ends it; similarly if there is no new information, there is no new podcast. Of the 6 episodes out right now, the lengths range from 30 minutes or so to a little over an hour and a half. I never find myself bored with what is being talked about, and I am generally a mixture of amused, interested, and thoughtful in response.

Seven has connections with ArenaNet (the company who created Guild Wars), which is a very open and receptive game company to begin with. The second episode for example was an awesome interview with Jeff Grubb, writer and game world designer; future episodes will feature more interviews with other ArenaNet employees who are involved in Guild Wars 2. Seven also features other guests on the show with him from the gaming community, with whom he bounces information and ideas around.

Now, let me state that although I’m a gamer, I’m not a specifically MMOer. My first MMO (not counting the one hour I tried Everquest at my sister’s request before I promptly uninstalled it) was Guild Wars, after which I have only played a smidgen of Dungeons & Dragons Online (again at the request of my sister). So, I don’t have much knowledge of how GW compares to other MMOs, or even all that much about how it differs other than some general features. So, this insight from others who have played several other types of MMOs for years is really interesting to me and helps me to better understand what ArenaNet is up to. In particular, several episodes have talked a lot about the PvP (Player vs. Player) portion of GW2. I only had a limited amount of experience with PvP in the original game, just a few minutes here and there in the arenas in the PvE (Player vs. Environment) realm, and have not played PvP in any game actually as I tend to do a lot of retro gaming. So, the information about PvP for GW2 has actually started to stir up some interest for me in that aspect of the coming game.

Even if you don’t know anything about Guild Wars or Guild Wars 2, links to reference materials are found in the show notes, and a new lore segment will help even newcomers to understand what’s going on and why there is such excitement drummed up for all aspects of this up-and-coming game release. I would of course absolutely recommend it for any current Guild Wars fan as well. ArenaNet’s staff involvement via blogs, conventions, interviews and the like coupled with this podcast grant some really great information to people interested in any aspect of this game.

Watch Out for Fireballs!

Posted: 2011.10.04 in Podcasts

I recently delved into the world of podcasts. I know, I know, they’ve ONLY been around for years, right? Well, I’ve never really been a fan of talk radio, so the concept of podcasts just did not appeal to me. However, as I can’t update my iPod with new music due to my computer being out of whack, I started downloading podcasts to my iPhone just to have something different to listen to at work. Watch Out for Fireballs! is not the first podcast I tuned into, but it is one of two so far that I have decided to follow. It’s about retro gaming and is hosted by Gary Butterfield and Kole Ross, who also run other podcasts. To put it simply, they’re funny, informative, and not too geeky (a little geeky is just fine in my book! What fan isn’t? I geek out all the time ;)~). Some gamer podcasts I’ve listened to are simply the unprofessional, idle rants of fanboys who seem to really have nothing else to do with themselves, but this one is solid and fun.

The first episode is the one that caught my attention as it covered Mega Man X. As a long-time fan of the Mega Man/Rockman series and in particular a fan of the more mature themes of the X series, this piqued my interest. If it wasn’t for Gary and Kole’s selection of this specific game for their podcast I might not have bothered to listen at all. At this time there are only two episodes available, Mega Man X and Myst, both of which I have played. My recollection of Myst was rather fuzzy, but I remembered more and more about it as I listened to the podcast. However, I was really laughing during the Mega Man X episode. I have a special love of the world of the X series, as I’d actually done some text-based RPing in it, and in fact had even drawn up part of a manga based on that original storyline.

But back to the podcast! Both of the episodes share the same format:

  • introduction and intro theme music
  • synopsis of the storyline of the game
  • gameplay mechanics and components commentary
  • pros and cons
  • overall first and renewed impressions of the game
  • listener feedback on the game
  • contact data and next episode info

This is a solid format that I think works very well. One of the things I enjoy the most is when they reminisce about their first experiences with the games when they were kids, as I can totally relate.

The game that will be covered in the third podcast is Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth by Bethesda. I have not tried this game before, but two factors have determined that at length I will try it when I have either fixed or replaced my computer: 1) it’s Bethesda; 2) WOFF! recommends it. In just two podcasts, they’ve gained my trust insofar as retro gaming is concerned (although it seems a bit strange to me to consider a game released in 2005 as “retro”…that’s a personal opinion only though!).

If you like retro gaming, I’d definitely recommend this podcast. Not raunchy like some, nor entirely pristine and boring, these are down to earth people with some solid feedback to offer. They also have a Facebook page for those of you on Facebook.